CLC remind conveyancers of the ongoing risk of fraud.

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers have reminded conveyancers of the increasing risk from fraud.  Their latest advice is published below and should be read and considered by all conveyancers.
The Continuing Fight against Fraud
August 6 2010
Recent meetings attended by the CLC confirm that all legal professionals need to be ever vigilant against criminal activity in the property market. As soon as steps are taken to reduce the risk in one area of property fraud, criminals are looking to move their activities to another area.
Licensed conveyancers are reminded to make sure that you and your staff are fully conversant with the CLC Guidance Note 14, entitled Mortgage Fraud. You should also make sure that any new members of staff joining your practice are made aware of this as part of their induction procedure.
A new trend is for criminals to use identity theft to commit mortgage fraud. You should continue to take great care with your client due diligence checks. However it is not just clients’ identities that are being hijacked but also legal practices.
The National Fraud Authority report, entitled “Working together to stop Mortgage Fraud”, makes valuable reading. It is available at:
In particular, the report states:
“…criminals continue to seek to exploit key professions involved in the mortgage and conveyancing processes. In particular, there is currently some concern about the impact of a small number of corrupt solicitors, or criminals posing as solicitors, opening, taking over or hijacking practices with the express intention of committing mortgage frauds.”
There have been recent circumstances where criminals have taken over or hijacked practices for fraudulent purposes. You should therefore be aware of this new risk. If you are approached with a proposition to expand your business, take in new investment or sell your practice, perhaps with a view to retirement, please take great care. Carry out due diligence checks to ensure that you are not being targeted as part of this new criminal activity
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Please contact the CLC and inform us of any suspected fraudulent activities or if you are approached with any of the offers described above or similar.
Remember the old adage: if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Another fraud issue is where a criminal sets up a parallel company which is used to impersonate your practice. It is a good idea to regularly check the internet to ensure that your practice is not being used in this way.

An easy way criminals do this is via email and PO Box addresses, using very similar details. For [email protected] may be changed to [email protected] or PO BOX 100 is changed to PO BOX 101 and so on. For this reason, the CLC recommends that you do not use email addresses such as Hotmail, Live or other such free emails as well as PO Boxes.
On a separate note, the Land Registry has produced a guide for registered owners entitled “Help protect your property” which could be useful to your clients in ensuring that they are not the victims of property fraud once you have completed your work for them. It is available at: http://www1.landregistry.gov.uk/assets/library/documents/public_guide_017.pdf

 We recognise the continuing fight against mortgage fraud is not a solo effort and we would like to reassure you that we are here to help you to protect your interests and those of your clients.

Yours sincerely,
Mike Harradine-Cardwell
Director of Operations
Today's Conveyancer